With the sheer quantity of elk hunting backpacks available for purchase, finding the right pack for your needs isn’t the most accessible task. The right pack is an absolute must for a successful and enjoyable elk hunt. So, we’ve cut through the noise and boiled down what you need to look for in your pack to a couple of the most essential considerations:
- Main Use/Function: Do you hunt elk during the day and return to a camp at night? You’ll likely need to opt for a lighter daypack, since you’ll be carrying less meat in the end and you want to be as comfortable as possible. Do you disappear into the backcountry for days at a time? You’ll certainly need a bigger, fully featured bivy pack. For a frame of reference, if you’re looking for versatile daypacks that can pull double duty on lightweight overnight jaunts, somewhere between 1800-2200 cubic inches will probably get the job done.
- Fit: It may not seem important at first, but over the course of long trips, your back and shoulders will pay for an improper fit. Your hips should bear the brunt of the load, the chest strap should fasten right over your chest, and the belt should fit snugly around the lower part of your waistline.
Though there are other considerations to take into account, function and fit should trump all in your search for a pack. With that in mind, we’ll explore some of the best elk hunting packs of the last few years.
The Daypacks (under $300)
Lightweight enough so that you avoid carrying around extra weight on your day trips but spacious enough to handle well-planned weekend overnights, these packs provide plenty of punch for the price.
Tenzing TZ 2200
Capacity: 2200 cubic inches
Primary Function: Daypack
The Scoop: For a simple daypack, the Tenzing TZ 2200 boasts a lot of features, including foldout rain cover and gun carrying boots, a back pad that channels air to maximize cooling, and a structured design that includes an aluminum frame and hip support. It also fits a lot of stuff, but it’s still light, only weighing 4 pounds total when it’s empty.
That said, the TZ 2200 can struggle with some of the heavier carries – for example, bull elks can give the pack trouble, and it may take some finagling to get everything back perfectly to the truck. Nevertheless, the pack is made from high quality materials – visible in the straps, zippers, and different compartments – and overall is extremely comfortable over long periods of time.
Sitka Flash 20
Capacity: 2000 Cubic Inches
Primary Function: Daypack
The Scoop: Described as “highly technical” and a popular “best of” pick on a number of elk hunting sites, the sleek Sitka 20 holds all of your essential gear even on long walks away from the truck. Lightweight, weather resistant, and able to take a punch, the Sitka 20 is a good pick for the minimalist.
That said, the Sitka 20 does boast a small bivy cache, so you can make a well-planned overnight trip work. The compression straps throughout the pack help make your load more stable, and the 2015 version’s novel toggle bow suspension system helps keep your weapon safe and secure.
A few knocks – many reviewers are disappointed in the lack of an H2O sleeve in the 2015, and a lot of loyal customers contend that past versions were better. However, for a sleek, minimalist daypack, the Sitka 20 is a solid choice.
Capacity: 1800 cubic inches
Primary Function: Daypack
The Scoop: Coming in a variety of camouflaged and earth-toned hues, the Eberlestock X2 can fit 1800 cubic inches worth of gear, weighs 4.5 pounds when completely empty, and boasts a number of carefully trademarked features. For example, the FlexChassis ™ is a flap that can either turn into a seat or bind additional loads that you strap to the outside of the pack, creating extra carrying ability. It also features two water bottle slots, and the big, oversized compression straps mean that dealing with heavier loads is no problem for the X2, belying its small size.
In terms of performance and quality, it’s hard to find anyone who will say a bad word about the X2. Its lightweight carry-ability combined with its features that allow you to bear heavier loads make it one of the most versatile elk hunting packs around, and one that is sure to get the job done for you.
The Overnighters (over $300)
Cavernous enough to handle extended excursions into the backcountry, these packs cost more but are loaded with potential, provided you can unleash it.
Eberlestock M5 Team Elk Pack
Capacity: 3100 cubic inches
Primary Function: Overnights, but can also serve as a daypack
The Scoop: Billed by the company as “the perfect combination of lightweight comfort and bomber toughness,” this pack is a bear. Even its appearance is rugged, with the Mossy Oak-esque camouflage finish making the bag look like the woods themselves. Though the bag has a lot of features – notably grapple-compression straps and a built-in bow holder – it still remains extremely comfortable by all accounts, easy to lug around all day and all night.
Both top-loading and front-loading, your gear is never tough to access. However, the M5 Team Elk Pack’s Achilles heel is the chest strap, a clip on piece of plastic that breaks far too easily. Aside from this one flaw, the M5’s a great overall pack, and a portion of your purchase goes to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
KUIU Ultra 6000
Capacity: 2500 cubic inches
Primary Function: Overnights – built for up to 14 day trips
The Scoop: The 6000 is the largest in KUIU’s Ultra series, and the company bills it as “the lightest mountain hunting pack system available.” Sporting KUIU’s patented American-made lightweight Carbon Fiber frame, you’ll be surprised at how light the Ultra 6000 is based on how much it holds. It holds up to 150 pounds comfortably and all of the materials are made from the highest quality, from the lumbar pad to the pivoting hip belt to the compression straps for heavy loads.
The only quibble we could find is that, as part of the pack’s design to minimize weight, the bag only has two access points: the sides and back. There is also a removable lid, but your gear won’t be as accessible as other packs. That’s likely because the Ultra 6000 is built for extended excursions, and designed with long hikes and overnights primarily in mind. Overall, a fantastic extended elk hunting trip pack.
KUIU, Eberlestock, Sitka, and Tenzing all make fantastic gear, and in general you can’t go wrong with any of their hunting products. Even if you don’t find your dream pack among the five options here, hopefully this article served as a jumping off point and an introduction (or a refresher) of some good sources for elk hunting season. Good luck on your elk hunt!